From the Branch


Identifying Atlanta's 2015 Offensive Improvements

Posted Jan 14, 2016

2015 was a year of change for Atlanta's offense, and even though it faced a great deal of challenges, it got better in many ways. Here are the five biggest improvements Kyle Shanahan's unit made this season.

The Tight End Position: Signed in free agency, Jacob Tamme provided a big upgrade at tight end. He finished with 657 receiving yards—the best total of his career and second-highest on the Falcons, behind only Julio Jones. Tony Moeaki chipped in, too, especially in Week 17 when he rumbled for a 42-yard touchdown. Additionally, Levine Toilolo had a number of good performances in the run game.

Pass Protection: Atlanta’s offensive line did a solid job protecting Matt Ryan this year. It gave up just 21 sacks and 26 QB hits, down from 26 sacks and 43 QB hits in 2014. Jake Matthews and Ryan Schraeder—one a sixth-overall pick, the other an undrafted signing—have brought some much-needed stability to the tackle position.

Devonta Freeman: Just a year after dropped to the fourth round of the NFL Draft, Freeman emerged as a premier running back, one who’s a perfect fit in Atlanta’s new offense. In the season finale, he became the first Falcon to earn 1,000 yards on the ground since Michael Turner in 2011. He also had a nose for the endzone and scored a league-high 11 rushing TDs. In the pass game, he finished with the most catches of any NFL RB (73) and tallied 578 receiving yards.

Julio Jones: The Falcons signed Jones to a lucrative five-year contract during preseason, and in 2015, he was worth every penny. His 136 receptions and 1,871 were both the second most all-time in a single NFL season and the most ever by a Falcon. Click here for more on Jones' historic year.

Patrick DiMarco: What a season for DiMarco. The second-team All-Pro FB did a tremendous job paving holes in the run game and catching passes when his number was called. Although he didn’t get a Pro Bowl nod, many believe he deserved it. Given his consistency, top-ranked Pro Football Focus grade and praise from the locker room, it’s safe to say 2015 was a best case scenario for the University of South Carolina product.